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How clued up are you? - The Paranoid Android
...musings of a mechanically depressed robot...
paranoidandroid
paranoidandroid
How clued up are you?
A recent survey by the National Geographic asked young people (18-24) in 9 countries about the world we live in. I find the results a little disturbing.

An American news site has the story here. You can take the survey yourself here.

The National Geographic-Roper 2002 Global Geographic Literacy Survey quizzed more than 3,000 young adults in Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, and the United States. Top scorers were young adults in Sweden, Germany, and Italy.

I took the survey. I was dreading making a fool of myself - I've never been interested in geography. The little I did at school is almost totally forgotten. Finding the likes of Israel or Afghanistan on a map seemed daunting.

The first question : What's the rough population of America? To be perfectly honest - I don't have a clue - but this was a multiple choice question (they all were). I knew there was more than 50 million (hell the UK has more than that) so option 1 was out. I know there are damn few countries with as many as a billion (China being the only one I knew of) so that left either 150-350mil or 500-750mil. and the last option just seemed too high.

So I guess 150-350 - and I got it right. Question 1 was down to an intelligent guess - a 50-50 once you thought about it. I was amazed on the answer page to see that only Sweden's result passed the 50% mark. I was even more shocked to see that the lowest score was from the states (25%)! It was at this point I wanted to see what the 75% who got it wrong had answered. I wondered what the actual population was (a quick google after I finished the survey gave me an estimated figure of 293 million from Jul 2004 from this interesting page). I can only hope the majority of the wrong answers were the 500-750 million choice. That way they could just be 200 million out...

Next question. Which of the following religions has the most followers.

I chose Buddhism on the (incorrect) assumption that most Chinese where Buddhist. Turns out that Christianity beats them all! The scores (by the people who took the survey for real) were high, Mexico scoring 92%.

2 questions down and only a 50% success rate... and that was just a (albeit educated) guess. Confidence was not running high.

The next few questions I answered easily. I have to wonder about the 7-9% of Germans, Swedes and French who didn't know which organisation endorses the Euro. Although I'm not totally surprised that more than half the Americans didn't know.

The next question I had a problem with was "What is the name of the Periodic drastic changes in ocean temperature that cause weather changes around the world." I was not alone - most of Europe has no idea it's called El Niño either. The Japanese on the other hand scored quite highly.

Question 9 surprised me. As I said above - I only knew of one country will a population of more than a billion, so asking me which TWO countries have such populations threw me a little.
Making what turned out to be a badly informed guess - I chose China and Russia (pop 144mil). How the hell do they fit all those people into India? Seems that I was not alone again! With the exception of Sweden (with a respectable 61%) all other countries scored less than a half - most scoring less than a third.

Question 10 : How the hell can more than 70% of the people in Mexico not know what West means?

The next bunch of questions where the ones I was dreading the most. "Where on a map of the world is _____?"

I was helped by the fact it was multiple choice, and that the answer was made somewhat obvious by virtue of the fact it was in the right continent, whereas the rest where not!

Some interesting facts.

When it comes to finding the USA on a map - the people (doing this survey) of the US came third... from last. One in ten could not find their own country on a map of the world.

Less than half of the people of the UK knew where Japan was. The only country with a lower score than that was the US.

About half of those surveyed in the UK didn't know where Mexico was. I was glad to see that most (97%) Mexicans do.

When asked to find Sweden, and given a choice of the UK, Australia, Poland and Sweden, it would seem most of the rest of the world haven't got a ferking clue! Luckily the Swedes know where they are ... well - most of them (97%) and a respectable number of Germans too. I'm disgusted to have to say that only 28% of the British knew. Given that they should have been able to recognise their own country, a rough third is the statistical equivalent of random guesswork.

Finding the Pacific was equally difficult for us it would seem. I guess being separated by a large body of water from your future wife enabled me to remember which side of the States the Pacific and Atlantic was... only half of the Brits were able to tell the difference.

The fact that only Germany scored more than 50% when it came to knowing where Afghanistan was is criminal when you consider the alternatives where Algeria (North Africa), Turkey, or China. Surely both Algeria and China can be instantly discounted?

The same goes for Israel when given the alternatives of South Africa, Argentina and Saudi Arabia. The UK getting just 25% - consistent with random guesses all round.

The UK saw a slight improvement (38%) for Finding Argentina from Brazil, Sweden, and Nigeria... but it was nowhere near the 50% it should have been statistically from just eliminating the places in the wrong continents.

In the end I managed to get 17 out of 20... and if I can do that - then I expect everyone else to get a similar score. I might not be able to point out any country on a blank map of the world - but I know generally which continents they are in. I expected everyone else to have this most basic understanding of the world in which we live... but it seems I've over estimated us again.

I'll admit to a lucky guess on a couple... but even with the worst of luck I'd be appalled to get such low scores as the actual survey participants got.

The world is getting smaller ... and dumber at the same time.

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

6 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
tweezlebum From: tweezlebum Date: June 18th, 2004 09:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Most Chinese people are officially Atheist. At least in China. What they actually believe is beside the point, but the official "religion" is Atheism.

I got 17/20, too. Yay us. :)
paranoidandroid From: paranoidandroid Date: June 18th, 2004 09:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Yup - that's what I found out. I guess you have to go with the "official religion" figures as there's no real way of asking every person to fill in a form or something.

We is smart! :)
peacefulchrissy From: peacefulchrissy Date: June 18th, 2004 09:37 am (UTC) (Link)

i got 19 out of 20.

those are the most depressing results ever, because that was the easiest test ever.
paranoidandroid From: paranoidandroid Date: June 18th, 2004 09:54 am (UTC) (Link)
You is damn smart girl!

I agree - I'd be ashamed to admit I was part of those groups.
teya_uk From: teya_uk Date: June 18th, 2004 11:41 am (UTC) (Link)
I got 19 out of 20.
cham From: cham Date: June 19th, 2004 02:34 am (UTC) (Link)
I managed a 19 out of 20 but i said the same thing about buddhism... been reading up on it a lot lately and have found that a lot of people follow it as a way of life, without actually believing in any of the religious stuff that goes with it however, i would still class that as buddhism...

anyways my point is that however bad the US comes out in that quiz there are still certain questions in there that you just can't get wrong, like which city is the most western??? and i'm not having a go at the yanks (for once lol) cos we didn't exactly do well in a lot of those questions... but the one thing that gets me is howcomes so many americans don't know where al-queda were based but yet they know that the middle east has the most oil??? hmmm media maybe?
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